Monthly Archives: March 2023

Kingston B’s relegation plight deepens after loss to Wimbledon A

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at St Winefride’s Church Hall, Wimbledon SW19 on 30 March 2023

Wimbledon A were somewhat weaker than we expected for this match, which at full strength against Kingston’s B team they would win easily. But they were still strong enough on the top boards to get the job done, running out comfortable winners by 4.5-1.5, with three wins and three draws.

On top board, Wimbledon’s Dan Rosen, avoiding the Caro-Kann with which he had failed to obtain an advantage on a previous outing against John Foley, essayed a King’s Gambit, but John, who has had an excellent season, declined it. The game was well controlled with neither side taking any risks. Rosen’s slow build up on the kingside was thwarted by Foley’s nimble piece-play in the centre and peace was soon declared.

Max Selemir as usual played aggressively against the very confident young Wimbledon player Girinath Haridas on board 2, but some opening inaccuracies proved costly and Max’s imaginative attacking play was on this occasion unable to rescue him. Kingston’s captain Gregor Smith also lost against the experienced Tony Hughes on board 3, though he felt he was level for a long time and only succumbed in time trouble.

I drew against Wimbledon captain Stephen Carpenter, who I’d lost to rather tamely in the reverse fixture in February. On paper, this was a reasonable result, but I’d actually had a very favourable middlegame position that sadly proved to be beyond my powers of calculation. Back to the drawing board. A nice feature of the match was no fewer than three rejected draw offers – one by me, two by my opponent. We each felt on top at different points in the game when the other was willing to settle for a draw. In the end, though, it was indeed even-Stephens. Boom-boom! (My opponent has to take responsibility for this dreadful pun.)

Promising youngsters Girinath Haridas (foreground, left) and Max Selemir do battle on board 2 at Wimbledon

Charlie Cooke drew a hard-fought game on board 5 in which both sides’ knights were to the fore. But hero of the night (no pun intended on this occasion) was Kingston junior Jaden Mistry (and his father Malcolm), who hotfooted it over to Wimbledon when the Kingston player who had been due to play dropped out just an hour before the match. Jaden thus saved the club from the ignominy of a default – it would have been our first in many years. He lost to a higher-rated player, but gave an excellent account of himself in a lengthy game (after a tough day at school, remember) and learned a great deal about the difficulty two knights have against two bishops in an endgame when the position is fairly open and the bishops can control the board.

Relegation from Thames Valley division 2 is now a very real threat for Kingston B, but all is not yet lost. Ealing B are already down, and we are contesting the other relegation place with Surbiton C, who suffered a significant loss to Hounslow B last week. We have a game in hand over Surbiton C and in theory the easier run-in, with two matches to come against Ealing B. So, as the unflappable Kingston B captain Gregor Smith says, our destiny is in our hands. Survival in division 2 is crucial for the club – we need to be in a variety of divisions to cater for players of all strengths – and we will be fighting all the way.

Stephen Moss

Kingston win two league titles – on the same night

In one evening, Kingston triumph in two leagues, after a gripping and decisive match with Hammersmith (played at the Willoughby Arms on 27 March 2023)

The fat lady worked overtime to sing twice for the Kingston first team on Monday – once at the Willoughby Arms and then again at the Guildford Institute. A memorable evening was followed, remarkably, by a memorable morning when we got the news from Guildford.

Before this match, we had been calculating what we needed to win Thames Valley League division 1. Two wins from our last four matches would ensure that we finished top, but if we beat Hammersmith at home we would become champions with three matches to spare, as then Hammersmith would not be able to catch us even if they won their final four matches. In the Surrey League we knew we needed just a draw at Coulsdon on 3 April to win that title.

Hammersmith, last season’s Thames Valley League champions, had given us a tough match at their venue, and they turned up at the Willoughby with another strong team. The top two pairings were the same as in the previous match, and altogether nine of the 12 players had participated in that fixture.

One who hadn’t was Hammersmith’s board 6, the junior Cian Ward. John Foley has found himself paired with several underrated juniors this season, and Cian proved his prowess by holding John to a draw in a Caro-Kann Two Knights variation. A quiet start, which totally belied the way the rest of the match would go.

Will Taylor scored the decisive point on board 4 with a win against Hammersmith captain Bajrush Kelmendi

On board 4 Will Taylor was playing the Hammersmith captain. This pairing surprised me, as almost every time I’ve played against Hammersmith I’ve found myself facing Bajrush Kelmendi. As a result, I think I know his game quite well. Will commented afterwards: “David Rowson gave me some useful intel before the game: my opponent plays quickly and aggressively. Normally I struggle against such players, as I have a tendency to get into time trouble, but at least I was psychologically prepared and tried not to fall too far behind on the clock.” As usual in Kelmendi’s games, his English Opening, far from being quiet and positional, was the prelude to a wild middlegame with the players attacking on opposite sides. In the position below Will played the imaginative 16…Nxc5.

Will’s attacking intent was commendable. “The point was lines like 17. dxc4 d4,” he explained, “but 18. Nd5! would have been a cold shower, blocking the e6-h2 diagonal and with it my attack. Qxd2 19. Nxf6+ gxf6 20. Rxd2. I’ll pick up another pawn, but it isn’t enough.” As it was, his opponent missed the opportunity, Will’s forceful play won the exchange, and he succeeded in co-ordinating his rooks to threaten checkmate and win the game. Only at the end of the evening did it become clear how important this was for us.

The next game to finish was my own. As quite often seems to happen, my beloved King’s Indian Attack did not live up to the last word of its name, and I found myself defending on the queenside and in the centre in a complicated game. My opponent’s passed c-pawn should have won for him. However, we reached this position:

Tired and under time pressure, I played 43. Nc6, overlooking 43…Rxc6 44. Bxc6 c2. For a few moments I thought I was lost and almost resigned, but then I saw 45. Bb5. He played Bf5, but I had 46. Bd7! Now Black either takes the bishop and ends up with two bishops against rook and pawn, or just repeats moves, as I will continue to move my bishop to a square where it diverts his own bishop from protecting the c2 pawn. An additional point is that if 46…Bxd7 47. Rxc2 Bxa4 I have 48. Rc4 winning one of the bishops. I thought my opponent might have played on, but he graciously offered a draw.

This made the score 2-1 to Kingston with the top three boards still in play. Peter Lalić transposed into the Mikėnas Defence (1. c4 Nc6 2.d4 e5) against Ali Hill’s English Opening, and after some original play from both sides had sacrificed his b-pawn for an advantage. Meanwhile, Vladimir Li, playing White against Carsten Pedersen’s usual French Defence, had won two pawns but was in a very complicated middlegame.

On board one, David Maycock v Marco Gallana, the Italian chose the Sveshnikov variation of the Sicilian Defence (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5). It’s impossible to do justice to this game in a few words. David revels in complications, and here he boldly sacrificed his h-pawn and calmly played his king to d2, into the midst of the maelstrom. Gallana had castled kingside, but this was also hardly a safe haven for his monarch as David’s rooks were lined up against it. The position after move 24 is shown below.

Here David played the very imaginative 25. Nf6+, to deflect Black’s bishop from defending h6. At this point, it seems to me, the limits of human analysis are pretty much exceeded and it’s even difficult to understand Stockfish’s analysis, according to which Marco’s 25…Bxf6 was a mistake (it says Kh8 is winning), but David’s follow-up, 26. Qxh6, should have given the advantage back to Black. The engine thinks 26. Ng4 instead was winning for White. I think the best way to get an understanding of what was going on in this amazing game would be to spend a club evening analysing it together.

Meanwhile, Vladimir had continued to play forcefully, but, short on time in a double rook endgame, he allowed his opponent to win back one pawn and exchange into a drawn single rook ending, a disappointment after his excellent play earlier on. His lesson to himself was “play simple chess when low on time”.

On balance, a point up at 2.5-1.5 with just the top two boards remaining, Kingston still looked favourites. Unfortunately, with less than five minutes on his clock on move 20, Peter Lalić overlooked that Ali Hill could win a piece. Peter only had two pawns for it, but he always knows how to keep setting problems for his opponent, even in the most unpromising positions. The position below was reached at move 40, with Peter three points down according to Stockfish.

There followed: 40. Rb3 Ke7 41. Bc6 Rb8 42. Ke2 f6 (creating a key passed pawn) 43. gxf6+ Kxf6 44. Kd3 Kg5 45. Rb1 b3 46. Rg1+ Kf4. It’s now equal according to Stockfish, because Black has been playing actively with his king and has two passed pawns, while White has not made any progress.

47. Rf1+ Kg3 48. Kc3 b2 49. Kc2 Kg2 50. Rb1 Kf3 51. Rxb2. Remarkably, Black now has winning chances.

Rxb2+ 52. Kxb2 g5 53. Kc3 g4 54. Bd7 g3 55. Bh3 g2. Here, 55…Kxe4 would have won, as Black wins the bishop for the g-pawn and then advances his e-pawn, subsequently winning White’s d-pawn, but Peter had only four seconds remaining. 56. Bxg2+ Kxg2 (now it’s a draw) 57. Kc4 Kf3 58. Kb5 Kxe4 59. Kc6 Kf5 60. Kxd6 e4 61. Kc7 e3 62. d6 e2 63. d7 e1=Q 64. d8=Q Qa5+ 65. Kc8 Qxd8+ 66. Kxd8 1/2-1/2 An amazing save by Peter under extreme time pressure.

Marco Gallana (left) and David Maycock fight out a thrilling final game on board 1 amid a sea of anxious faces

Thus the top-board game was left to decide the match and, possibly, the league: a fitting, and gripping, ending. Kingston only needed a draw to win the match and be Thames Valley champions. Both players were now playing on the 10-second increment. As the spectators clustered round, David was in theory (according to Stockfish analysis) completely lost, but Marco missed a difficult mating sequence and suddenly it was David who had the better chances.

In the position above David played 32. Rxg6 and Marco took the rook with his knight. Instead 32…Qxe3 would have led to mate in eight. Following 32…Nxg6. 33. Qg8+ Black’s king was pushed to the other side of the board. But, pressing for a win, David lashed out unnecessarily with his rook, and after a flurry of moves this position was reached:

With almost no time left, Gallana played 41…Qc3+ 42. Kc1 Qe1+ 43.Kb2 Qc3+ and the players agreed a draw. In fact, Black didn’t need to repeat. Ba3+ is winning when the king retreats to c1, and the move also works if White unpins the knight by taking shelter on b1: 44. Kb1 Ba3 and White only has 45. Rd6+ to prevent mate. But after both David and Marco had fought so hard to negotiate a knife-edge position on 10-second increments alone, it seemed an appropriate ending.

So Kingston had achieved a last gasp win by 3.5-2.5. A memorable way to win the Thames Valley title, in such a close match against the previous champions. Hammersmith were worthy opponents; Chris Skulte even kindly helped me to finish packing up the equipment.

We were quietly luxuriating in this achievement when, the following morning, Kingston chair Alan Scrimgour noticed on the Surrey chess website that Guildford 1 had beaten Wimbledon 1 5-3 the previous evening. As Wimbledon was the only club which could hypothetically catch us until then, their defeat meant that Kingston were not only Thames Valley but also Surrey Trophy champions.

Two titles in one evening, and the first time this has ever been achieved by Kingston in the same season (emulating Wimbledon, who won both in 2018). The last time Kingston were champions of Surrey was 1975 and the last time the club won the Thames Valley League was 1984. Two very long waits ended on the same evening in what may be Kingston’s greatest ever season.

David Rowson, Kingston first-team captain

Thames Valley League division 1: Kingston cannot be caught
Surrey League division 1: Kingston cannot be caught

Hasson stars as CSC/Kingston 2 ignite promotion charge

Two wins at weekend 4 launch CSC/Kingston 2 into the division 4 promotion mix at 4NCL

Weekend 4 at 4NCL was a triumph for CSC/Kingston 2. With two wins – the one on Saturday against a team which massively outgraded them – we now suddenly, and perhaps just a little surprisingly, have a chance of promotion going into the final weekend at the end of April, though some very tough teams lie in wait. Both CSC/Kingston 1 and CSC/Kingston 2 are now in the promotion mix in divisions 3 and 4 at that final weekend, which promises to be edge-of-the-seat stuff.

The team’s victory on Saturday against War and Piece A was remarkable. The average rating gap was more than 250 points, which logically pointed to a convincing victory for War and Piece. But the CSC/Kingston team had other ideas. Peter Hasson, who has had a tremendous season at 4NCL, beat a 2100-rated played on board 2; Ewan Wilson and John Carter took the spoils of boards 3 and 5; and Petr Vachtfeidl and Nick Grey recorded important draws on boards 4 and 6 – all against much higher-rated opponents. An unforgettable triumph which ignited CSC/Kingston 2’s season.

Celtic Tigers 2 were on paper weaker opposition on Sunday, with CSC/Kingston this time the stronger team by an average of 260 points. We won reasonably comfortably, though the fact that the score was once again 4-2 demonstrated how dangerous it is to make assumptions in chess based on ratings. Who would have predicted ahead of the weekend that matches against two teams so far apart in strength would have produced the same result?

Hasson once again won on board 2, young Max Selemir was victorious on board 5, and Ewan Wilson followed up his success on Saturday with a draw with Black against Celtic Tigers’ strong board 1. But credit to Celtic Tigers 2 for draws against much higher-rated players on the other three boards. Two matches that could not have been more different, but the net result is that CSC/Kingston 2 now have a fantastic opportunity at the final 4NCL weekend, when three tough matches will be played over three days.

Stephen Moss

Kingston 1 stay on title trail with victory at Richmond

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Adelaide, Teddington on 21 March 2023

Another win, another step nearer the Thames Valley division 1 title. Of course our first team should beat Richmond B, but you never know. It was good to get this away match out of the way and pleasing to win in such emphatic style: we were 4-1 up on the night, with captain David Rowson very favourably placed (the exchange up and plus 5 according to engines) in an adjudication, so a final score of 5-1 looked likely.*

The game of the night was played by David Maycock on board 1. He has had a lean spell recently and has been juggling playing with college and chess teaching commitments, but he was bang on the money here against Andrew Hebron, playing sharply and winning in 23 moves. Andrew played a Pirc Defence, but made a premature foray to g4 with a knight and David quickly established an advantage (see diagram below).

Naturally, David played the critical move here, which is 12. e5. The best continuation for Black is 12…cxd4 13. exf6 dxc3 14. fxe7 Qxe7 15. Bxe7 cxd2 16. Bxf8 Bxf8 17. Nxd2 Nf6. But White is still much better and you can see why Andrew wanted to mix it up a bit. Instead he played 12… Ne8, but this led to a brutal sequence in which Black is either mated or has to give up vast quantities of material: 13. Nd5 g5 14. Nxg5 hxg5 15. Qxg5 f6 16. Qh5 cxd4 17. Bd3 Rf7 18. e6 Ne5 19. Bh7+ Kf8 20. Nf4 Nc7 21. exf7 Ne6 22. Ng6+ Nxg6 23. Bxg6 1-0

An excellent attacking game from the young maestro, who has clearly rediscovered his mojo, even spending the next hour and a half in the bar analysing the game with his opponent and looking through a Kasparov game in a book he had brought along. Unheard of. He really is serious about getting a title.

On board 2, Jon Eckert (wearing his Richmond rather than his Kingston hat) blundered piece for pawn against Silverio Abasolo when under a touch of pressure, and decided that trying to play on against so strong an opponent was likely to make for an unpleasant evening.

That made it 2-0 to Kingston and things were looking reasonably comfortable, though Alan Scrimgour was under pressure against Victor Bluett on board 5 and offered a draw. Bluett bravely (given the 300-point rating gap) turned it down, only for a rook endgame to turn against him and let Alan in for a victory. The post-mortem suggested Victor may well have missed a win.

Victor Bluett (right) put Alan Scrimgour under pressure, but the Kingston player triumphed in a rook endgame

On board 6, Stephen Lovell was playing his first game for Kingston since 2017 – a most welcome return – and established a potential passed pawn against Adrian Waldock. But with queens and rooks still on the board, Adrian got some counterplay, time was starting to run out and Stephen sensibly took a draw. Seven years since your last time scramble is a lengthy break.

It was a similar story on board 4, where Will Taylor established an edge in the middle game and was apparently winning by move 37, but gave a crucial pawn back in time trouble and preferred not to carry on pressing on the increment against an opponent who still had 10 minutes left. Another draw.

That made the score 4-1 to Kingston and left David Rowson on board 5 as the last game to finish. Or not, in fact, as his opponent had opted for slowplay – 35 moves in 75 minutes on the night and a resumption at a later date unless the players can reach agreement on the likely result. An unsatisfactory way to conduct an evening chess game surely, but some players still prefer it and the leagues (for the moment at least – there will be pressure to change next season) tolerate such archaic practices.

“The opening was a Giuoco Piano,” said David. “The game was fairly level until we exchanged queens and took a pawn each, which allowed me to play 20…b5 [in the position below].”

“This was actually an oversight on my part,” he continues, “as I hadn’t realised he had the clever 20. Bxb5 cxb5 21. Re4, apparently winning back his piece because of the attack on two of my pieces simultaneously. However, it was not quite clever enough, as I (very luckily, not having seen Bb5) had 22…Nc2. 23. Rc1 Bf5 winning the exchange.”

The game was adjourned with David that exchange up and with an a-pawn running. His opponent has the right to play on of course, but engines give David an advantage of +5 and it would be a long journey to make for a resumption in such an unforgiving position. We are hoping for 5-1 and a further step towards Kingston’s first Thames Valley title since 1984. Next Monday’s home clash with mighty Hammersmith is now crucial.

* David’s opponent resigned a couple of weeks after the match, so 5-1 was indeed the score.

Stephen Moss

Epsom 1 prove too strong for Kingston 2

Surrey League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 20 March 2023

We had a very full house at the Willoughby Arms on Monday 20 March. Kingston 2 were entertaining, if that is the right word, Epsom 1, while Kingston 3 were up against South Norwood 2. We lost both matches but fought hard, and wins for Jaden Mistry and Shaurya Handu in the South Norwood match (dealt with separately in captain Stephen Daines’ report) were very encouraging.

Epsom 1 were just too strong for Kingston 2, despite Heinrich Basson making a welcome debut for us on board 3. We lost on all four top boards. Alan Scrimgour was doing well in his favoured Sicilian against IM Graeme Buckley, but fell for a tactic that lost a pawn. Another pawn was also mislaid and Alan just had no counterplay, so resigned. IMs do not give up two-pawn advantages easily.

On board 2, Peter Andrews was level after 40 moves another IM, Peter Large, but by then both players were running short of time and Kingston’s Peter blundered in the time scramble. Very frustrating to be so close to a deserved draw. “Obviously, stronger players do better in blitz finishes than weaker ones,” said Andrews afterwards, “especially when the weaker one has been under a little pressure for most of the game, but he blundered once in the blitz (failing to see that I’d left my bishop en prise), so it’s not completely impossible that I could have got something out of that, had I not stopped thinking altogether!” The perils of evening chess, with their short time controls.

Heinrich had a tough debut against the 2000-rated Daniel Young on board 3 and was very cramped early on, but he fought tenaciously before succumbing under time pressure, and Epsom’s Chris Wright (a former first-team player for Kingston) got the better of Jon Eckert on board 4.

Tough going then for the top boards, but better news elsewhere. Kingston’s rising star Max Selemir got a solid draw against Epsom president Marcus Gosling on board 5, though Max, who much prefers chess pyrotechnics, described it afterwards as a “boring game”. Nick Grey, with White on board 6, defeated Lucy Buckley in a king-and-pawn endgame in which Nick’s experience told, and Gregor Smith, though hemmed in on all sides by promising Epsom junior Louis Di Cicco, managed a draw.

That made it 5-2 to Epsom: a predictable defeat against a side led by two IMs and confirmation that Kingston are almost certainly destined for the drop, especially with our fellow relegation strugglers South Norwood unexpectedly beating league leaders Ashtead a day later. That result takes South Norwood to the brink of safety and gives Epsom a shot at snatching promotion from long-time leaders Ashtead. Assuming Epsom beat South Norwood away (never easy!) on Thursday 13 April, Epsom 1 and Ashtead 1 will face each other in the promotion decider on Monday 24 April.

Stephen Moss, acting Kingston 2 Surrey League captain

Mistry boosts Kingston 3 with debut win

Surrey League division 4 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 20 March 2023

After a comprehensive defeat to South Norwood 2 in the away match, this was a much better showing. South Norwood had a strong team out and Ron Harris, who remains an excellent attacking player if you give him the initiative, scored a quick win against Charlie Cooke on board 1. But Kingston’s junior duo of Shaurya Handu and Jaden Mistry quickly counterpunched.

Shaurya, with Black, defeated the experienced Barry Miles on board 5, underlining his great potential, and Jaden scored his first win for the club against Les Denford on board 6. That made it 2-1 to Kingston and it was looking good when I had a comfortable draw against my rival captain, Ken Chamberlain, on board 4. But South Norwood had strong players on two and three and won both games in good style to run out 3.5-2.5 victors in the match.

Kingston’s Sean Tay had chances on board 3, but an eleventh-hour piece sacrifice did not come off, and he was mated as his opponent launched a counter-attack. This division has been tough for Kingston 3, but our juniors and new players are heading in the right direction and we will be stronger next season .

Stephen Daines, Kingston third-team captain

CSC/Kingston 1 maintain promotion challenge

Superb 4NCL weekend for CSC/Kingston 1, who recorded another two victories to move to join top of Division 3 West. All to play for going into the final weekend next month

It was another impressive 4NCL weekend for CSC/Kingston 1, with two vital wins against good opposition – the Warwickshire Select 2 team on Sunday are one of the higher-rated sides in the division. Giampiero Amato was successful on both days; Peter Finn lost on top board on Saturday but roared back with a win against his highly rated opponent on Sunday; Tom Ferrand, Clive Frostick and Chris Rice also recorded important victories on Saturday; but there was an admirable solidity and consistency right across a very experienced team.

With the powerful Warwickshire Select 1 surprisingly losing to West is Best 2 on Sunday, the promotion race is now wide open and the final weekend on 29 April to 1 May (three matches over the extended Bank Holiday weekend) is going to be tremendous. CSC/Kingston 1 will play the three other strongest teams in the division – Warwickshire Select 1, West is Best 2 and Chessable White Rose 3. It will be high-stakes stuff, with promotion to the chess big time as the prize, but at least our fate is in our hands.

To get this close to promotion is a remarkable achievement given that CSC/Kingston 1 started the season in division 4 and only entered division 3 when another team dropped out. We missed the first weekend, when we would have been pretty well guaranteed two wins against relatively weak opposition, and had to settle for two nominal “draws” (the organisers made the two matches 3-3, giving us two points rather than four). Those lost points could yet be crucial in the promotion fight, but we must put that out of our minds and concentrate on winning the final three matches against our closest promotion rivals next month. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a thriller.

Stephen Moss

Kingston B get crucial win in TVL relegation battle

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the United Reformed Church, Tolworth on 14 March 2023

This was a crucial clash for Kingston B, away to fellow relegation strugglers Surbiton C, who against the odds had taken the spoils in the reverse fixture at the start of the season. On board 2 and playing Black, Peter Andrews, who has been a star of the league campaign, was first to finish with an emphatic win against Alexey Markov. Peter’s self-confessed “cheapo” picked up a piece early on and he converted smoothly.

The “cheapo” was actually the result of a blunder by Alexey. The game was completely level after 23 moves, but in the position below he made a fairly logical-looking move that more or less lost on the spot:

Perhaps wary of Peter’s big rating advantage, Alexey played 24. Qa5?? to get the queens off and perhaps head towards a draw, but the move loses because it leaves the capturing knight on a5 prey to Black’s rook. The game proceeded: 24. Qa5 Qxa5 25. Nxa5 Ne4 26. bxa4 (Nxb7 is better but still losing) Rxa5 27. Rxb7 Rxa4 28. Nc6 Bf6 29. Rdd7 Kf8 (unnecessary prophylaxis; Black can just snaffle the a-pawn and is plus 6, but everything is winning).

Alexey played on, with increasing desperation, until he was mated on move 47. And why not? As Tartakower said “No one ever won a game by resigning.” In the position below, what should Black play? The game is of course totally won, but what is the move you should play if you want golden coins to be showered on the board? No looking at the text below the diagram please. This is fun to work out for yourself. It took the collective brains trust of the Kingston Chess Club What’s App group a good 15 minutes to come up with the solution.

Peter played the very natural 39. Nf1, which got the job done, but the best move is the decidedly unnatural-looking Rd8!!, casually tossing a rook away and allowing check, but critically gaining a tempo for Black. In fact, in this variation, Black gives away both rooks to achieve mate in seven: 39…Rd8 40. Rxd8+ Kg7 41. Rd2 Kg6 42. Ra6+ e6 43. Rxe6+ fxe6 44. Rf2 Rxh2+ 45. Rxh2 Bf6#. Ah, the counter-intuitive beauty of chess. “I don’t feel too bad for missing that,” said Peter, “except that it would have been great entertainment.”

Peter Andrews continued his excellent run of form with an emphatic victory against Alexey Markov on board 2

Another stalwart, Charlie Cooke, who has played in every Kingston B match this season, drew on board 6 with Surbiton veteran David Morant. And fresh from his debut victory for the first team the previous evening, Max Selemir’s game also ended in a draw on board 3, continuing his excellent record for the second team this season. 

It was a clash of the captains on board 4, as I took on Surbiton skipper Paul McCauley. Paul played the Jobava London System, which he said he had prepared earlier, and went for the familiar idea of a pawn sac on e6, via this sequence of moves: 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bf4 c5 4. e4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Bxc6 Bxc6 8. e5 Nd7 9. e6 fxe6. The pawn sac removes Black’s f-pawn and doubles the pawns on the e-file, as shown in the diagram below.

Engines reckon White has adequate compensation for the pawn, but I managed to simplify quickly, exchange queens and avoid any counterplay against my rather awkward pawn structure. Ultimately my mass of pawns in the centre proved critical in the endgame, where I managed to win a pawn race by one tempo and deliver checkmate with my newly crowned queen, supported by a crucial pawn on the e-file. A rare move order novelty that made me laugh during the game were my three consecutive moves of e5, e4, e5. I guess doubled pawns really aren’t always that bad – a point Nigel Short often likes to make.

My win made it 3-1 to Kingston. We now just needed a draw from the remaining two games to secure the victory, and it was Alan Scrimgour on board 1 who delivered the crucial half-point. Despite having a piece for two pawns, Alan felt he did well to secure the draw as his opponent was threatening to break through with the extra pawns on the kingside. 

The match was won, but Stephen Moss was still blitzing away in a rook-and-pawn endgame against Surbiton junior Conrad Bredenoord on board 5. Bredenoord is a very throughtful young man who played slowly and imaginatively, essaying the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4), which is an excellent choice against the King’s Gambit. Stephen got a tiny edge out of the opening, but just back from holiday his thought processes were even more scrambled than usual and he went badly wrong in the key position shown below.

He played 19. Bf3?? here. It looks plausible, but deserves to lose. The game proceeded: 19. Bf3 Rxd1 20. Rxd1 Nxf3 21. gxf3 Rxh2+ 22. Ke3 Rxb2 23. Ra1 Bd5 24. a3 Rb3 25. Ne2 Bc4 26. Rc1 Bxe2 27. Kxe2 Rxa3. Black is plus 3, and White is pretty well sunk – and all because Stephen missed a fairly straightforward intermezzo. This is how it should, in Stephen’s dreams at least, have gone: 19. Bg4+ Kb8 20. Rxd8+ Rxd8 21. Rd1 Rh8 22. Bh3 a5 23. Ne2 b6 24. c4 Ng6 25. Rd2 f5 26.Kg1 Be4. In this variation, White gains a healthy plus: he is not necessarily winning but is certainly calling the shots.

As it was, Stephen was fighting for his life – and to give him credit he made a good job of it. Conrad had rook and five pawns against rook and three pawns, but Stephen told himself that such endgames were not necessarily lost and, with both players now on the increment, successfully created complications. Oblivious to the gaggle of spectators around the board, he fought tigerishly and in the end secured a draw. A fantastic hold. “A draw that felt better than most wins,” he said afterwards, in a combination of elation and exhaustion. That made the final score 4-2 to Kingston, and, with five games to go to avoid the drop, the win in the match could be the lifeline we need to stay afloat in Thames Valley division 2.

Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in the Thames Valley League

Kingston 1 ease past Guildford 2 to maintain Surrey challenge

Surrey League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 13 March 2023

This was one of those banana skins. Kingston’s first team should be strong enough to defeat Guildford 2 with something to spare, but you never quite know. When the two teams met at Guildford last November Kingston only won narrowly, so captain David Rowson had no intention of being complacent and fielded a strong team against a Guildford eight that was packed with experience.

David, with Black, opened the scoring himself, beating Mike Morgan in a short and brutal game on board 5 that could have gone either way. Morgan chose the Potter Variation of the Scotch Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nb3) and played with great enterprise, advancing his a- and h-pawns and essaying an early lift of the rook on the a-file. This was the position after 13 moves. What should White play?

Morgan opted for the super-aggressive 14. g4. But because the black queen is so short of squares, the best move is 14. Rf4, after which White can establish a healthy advantage, as in this line: 14. Rf4 Bf5 15. g4 O-O-O 16. gxf5 Nxd5 17. Re4 Rhg8 18.Bg2 Kb8 19. O-O g6.

Morgan’s choice of 14. g4 led to an equal position and some very sharp play, but he lost his way in a blitz of tactics and the canny Rowson found the winning move in the position below.

22. Bxf2+! wins. The white king can’t recapture because Qh4+ would fork king and rook, winning the latter. But the alternative is just as bad, dropping the bishop on f1. Morgan resigned after Bxf2+ 23.Kd2 Rxe7 24.Qxe7 Qxf1. 1-0 to Kingston thanks to the captain’s cool head under fire and tactical awareness.

“At times it felt like edge-of-the-seat stuff,” David said after the game, “though the final part was quite tame as my opponent made some mistakes. I thought his opening was very impressive. People don’t usually play 5. Nb3 in the Scotch in my experience, but it looks terrifying for Black. White just advances the a- and h-pawns and can develop both his rooks along their files – amazing! 13… d6 by me was a mistake. I should have castled straightaway, though it still looks scary . He made it relatively easy after that, though I was pleased to find 22…Bxf2+.”

On board 1, Guildford’s James Toon was up against David Maycock and making a very good fist of it. David thought afterwards that he had tried too hard to unbalance the position, and he allowed the super-solid Toon to establish a small advantage, with an outside pawn in a rook-and-pawn endgame. David was as usual well behind on the clock and playing on the increment, but nevertheless played precisely to ensure a draw.

Peter Lalić’s game against Alex Warren on board 2 ended almost simultaneously and again produced a draw – an excellent result for the heavily outrated Warren, who was playing Black. Warren had the better of the opening in a closed Sicilian and developed an edge that led to Peter burning through his time – the control was 75 minutes plus a 10-second increment. With nine minutes left compared with 45 for Warren and Black still holding a small advantage, Peter offered a draw, which was accepted.

That made it 2-1 to Kingston, but things looked very promising elsewhere. On board 3, Vladimir Li said later that he felt Guildford captain Julien Shepley was positionally lost relatively early in the game. But after winning the exchange it took him until the 54th move to deliver mate as Shepley clung on. 3-1 to Kingston.

Max Selemir, making his first-team debut, nonchalantly sac’d a bishop against Peter Horlock in the position below.

The sac proved to be completely sound, Max quickly getting the piece back with interest: 15. Bxh6 gxh6 16. Qxh6 Nh7 17. Re3 d5 18. Rg3+ Bg5 19. Qxc6 bxc6 20. h4 d4 21. Ne2 Rde8 22. f3 f6 23. hxg5 fxg5. He then quickly mopped up his opponent’s disorganised pawns and won in good style. A great start to his first-team career.

That made it 4-1 and Peter Andrews, with Black against Rory Davies, soon took Kingston over the line with a smooth win. He accepted Davies’s Queen’s Gambit, and said afterwards that a recent experience as a spectator at the annual Varsity Match had greatly aided his cause. “I owe the slight plus I got from the opening to having attended the Oxford v Cambridge match a couple of weeks ago,” he explained. “Freddie Hand, the Cambridge board 3, played the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and this line came up. He played Nc6 (after c5) rather than Nd7, got a bad position fairly quickly and lost. In the commentary room, Matthew Sadler opined that black’s knight was misplaced on c6; it was blocking the action of the queen’s bishop, vulnerable on the c-file, and from d7 the knight can go to more useful squares – in particular b6-c4. So I followed that advice, and it turned out right. The advice might be equally good for White, but it’s psychologically hard not to play Nc3 to support a possible d5 break.”

There were two games still in progress: Alan Scrimgour against Trevor Jones on board 6 and Will Taylor against Phil Stimpson on board 4. Alan played the Panov-Botvinnik Attack against Jones’s Caro-Kann, fixing a knight on b6 protected by a pawn on c5 that horribly restricted Black’s play. He lined up his queen and both rooks on the e-file, established a stranglehold on the position, won material and created a passed a-pawn. 6-1.

That left Will’s game, the only one of the evening being determined – at Will’s opponent’s choice – by adjudication rather than to a finish (when, oh when, will the Surrey League get rid of adjudications?). Stimpson played a Scandinavian; Will made most of the running and gained an edge; but he missed a win on move 26 when he could have won a piece by exploiting a back-rank mating threat; and the final position, though appearing to favour Will because he has an extra pawn on the a-file in a rook-and-pawn endgame, has been adjudged a draw. Engines may say he is +1, but, as so often in rook-and-pawn endgames with long horizons, engines are wrong.

As ever, Will took the failure to convert philosophically. What an admirable temperament he has. And at least he – and the rest of the team – had the consolation of a 6.5-1.5 victory that leaves Kingston proudly top of the Surrey League division one table with six wins in six matches and needing only half a point more from the final two matches – tricky away trips to Wimbledon and Coulsdon – to secure the club’s first Surrey Trophy (division 1) title since 1975. The ginger beer is on ice.

Stephen Moss

Kingston 3 given lesson by Guildford veterans

Surrey League division 4 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 6 March 2023

Let’s be honest, this was not a good night for Kingston 3 – going down by 5-1 to Guildford 4. But on reflection the one-sided scoreline was understandable. We are still trying to bring on new and young players, whereas Guildford fielded a very experienced team, with veterans Peter Horlock and Mike Gunn in the middle order. The Guildford players were rated between 1628 and 1758, and the rating gap with Kingston was huge. The fact that this was Guildford’s fourth team shows what a large and powerful club Guildford is. How nice to have such depth.

As each game progressed the experience of Guildford’s players showed, but hopefully It was a good learning experience for Kingston’s team. The key thing is not to get downhearted by defeats to strong players but to learn lessons from every reverse. What we really need at Kingston is a better organised mentoring system, so that match time can be married to a thorough analysis of games in the company of one of Kingston’s plethora of very strong players. This is a system we are actively looking to develop at Kingston: a “buddy” approach that will have the useful side-effect of giving the teams a common purpose and uniting the club, stopping silos of players developing based on strength.

I’ve left the one Kingston high spot of the match until last – David Shalom’s victory with Black on board 1 against Tony Garrood, who is rated more than 100 points above him. David is having a really good season on his return to competitive chess, and this was a tremendous result. Well played David and thanks to the rest of the team for a spirited effort against a nard-nosed side that will pay off in the long term by making our emerging players stronger.

Stephen Daines, Kingston third-team captain